Denmark’s economy ‘worst hit’ in Nordic countries by coronavirus

Denmark is lagging behind other Scandinavian countries in regard to cushioning the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the national economy, according to analysts.

Denmark’s economy 'worst hit' in Nordic countries by coronavirus
Central Copenhagen on January 12th. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

A number of economists have noted that Denmark is faring worse economically during the crisis than Norway, Sweden and Finland, in part because its restrictions have been tighter, financial media Finans reports.

“We (Denmark) are the ones who have got by the worst in the Nordic region. That is now very clear. But we have also had the hardest lockdown,” Helge Pedersen, senior economist with bank Nordea, told Finans.

Denmark’s GDP increased by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, giving an overall reduction to the economy of 3.7 percent last year compared to 2019, according to preliminary figures from Statistics Denmark.

That is a bigger hit to the economy than those suffered in any of the other three Nordic countries on the European mainland, Finans writes, noting that in Norway and Finland GDP expressed as prices decreased by 1.5 percent in 2020 (the figures for the latter country are preliminary), while for Sweden, that number was 2.5 percent. The calculations are attributed to the bank Handelsbanken.

All four countries have spent significantly on compensation and furlough packages, but Denmark was the only country to pump money directly into its economy.

This was done through allowing wage earners in the country to claim so-called ‘holiday money’ funds ahead of schedule. The Danish state footed the bill for the claims.

READ ALSO: After Danish payouts to boost economy, what is cash being spent on?

That increased consumer spending in October and November, which served to avoid an even worse Danish slump, Finans reports.

“We got through the year without massive unemployment and waves of bankruptcies in Denmark. That is good in a broader perspective. But neither did that happen in other Scandinavian countries. On the other hand, the lockdown has hit the Danish economy a little harder,” Handelsbanken’s senior economist Jes Asmussen told the media.

Sweden is well-known for having taken a softer approach to societal shutdowns and restrictions throughout the pandemic, only recently changing tack towards stricter measures.

Norway’s restrictions have been similarly stringent to those in Denmark but have generally had a shorter duration and a more regional focus.

The Danish economy is likely to continue to feel a relatively high economic impact into 2021. Projections by the two banks suggest that the first quarter of 2021 will see a 2 percent shrinkage in Denmark’s GDP, larger than that in Sweden. Norway and Finland’s economies are forecast to grow slightly.

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IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.”